Watches and F1: The Heuer Jacky Ickx Easy-Rider

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Editor’s note: I’m excited today to bring you the first article by a new contributor to worn&wound, Sean Lorentzen. Sean’s a young writer with a love of watches and all things car related, whose work has been featured on the prominent car enthusiasts blog, Petrolicious. This article is actually the first in a series that combines his passions, looking at lesser known F1 inspired watches and the people that inspired them. Enjoy!

I am a man of two great passions. In the past several years, I’ve been captivated by the watch world, especially the vintage side. Within a few short years of my life, I’ve gone from a complete watch illiterate whose only experience with horology was a Timex Ironman I had when I was nine, to the type of guy who spends hours each day trolling forums and drooling over everything from mid-60s Breitling Navitimers to Wittnauer super compressors to funky old Squale designs (It can change on a day-to-day basis, something I’m sure many of you are familiar with).

I got bitten by the watch bug one day, and bitten hard. But my oldest passion, the love I’ve had in my life since before I could walk, is a die-hard, borderline unhealthy obsession with cars and racing. I grew up at drag strips, superspeedways, and IndyCar races, and every Sunday since I was 12 I’ve woken up, oftentimes at 3 or 4 in the morning, to watch the Formula 1 World Championship. And really, if I’m honest, it’s this passion that led me into watches.

Multitudes of articles have been written over the years about the link between watchmaking and motorsport, both from the perspective of racing fans and watch enthusiasts like us all here at worn&wound. It’s clear to see why, there’s a long history of cross-promotion, sponsorship, and technological sharing between the two, in particular with Formula 1. However, for the incredible amount that’s been written on the subject, it all seems to fall into the same few topics- Heuer in the late 60s-mid 70s and the connection with Jo Siffert, Jackie Stewart’s longtime ambassadorship for the Rolex Daytona, and a few others. That’s not to say these stories aren’t fascinating, or that the watches themselves aren’t unbelievable- in fact, a well-maintained “Siffert” Autavia is my grail of grails- but these stories have already been well-covered.

There are so many other connections that are rarely mentioned, however. Some truly incredible watches simply fall through the cracks in these articles, all of which have a design or sponsorship connection to Formula 1. To start this series, we’ll be taking a look at a peculiar watch from the early 70’s, the Heuer Jacky Ickx Easy-Rider.

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Heuer Jacky Ickx Easy-Rider Chronograph

First on the list is, in fact, a Heuer (even I couldn’t get through this sort of list without at least one- more on that later), but it might not be one you’re familiar with. In 1971, Heuer released a budget-minded line of chronographs known as the Easy-Rider series. These watches were substantially cheaper than the rest of the contemporary Heuer range, with an Easy-Rider chrono costing less than a third the price of a contemporary Monaco. Perhaps not wanting to dilute the value of the brand, the Easy-Rider series carried no Heuer branding, with most either being sold under Heuer’s Leonidas sub-brand, or through the Sears catalog as the “Sears Chronograph”.

heuer-jacky-ickx-easy-rider-watch-RETROVINTAGEWATCH
Photo via retrovintagewatch.com

However, the top of the line Easy-Rider was allowed Heuer packaging, and featured several bells and whistles to separate it from its more pedestrian stablemates. These models had chrome-plated cases, as opposed to the fiberglass cases of Leonidas/Sears examples, and were also the only ones of the range available on a stainless bracelet. Most importantly, however, was the name on the dial; Jacky Ickx.

ickx

Jacky Ickx was one of the biggest figures in global motorsport by 1971. The Belgian had already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans once 1969, behind the wheel of the legendary Ford GT, and would go on to win the endurance classic five more times in 1975-77, and 1981-82. Meanwhile, in his Formula One career, he’d come runner-up in the 1970 world championship standings for Scuderia Ferrari after doing the same the previous year for Brabham, and was the odds-on favorite to win the championship for the Scuderia in 1971 after 1970 world champion Jochen Rindt’s tragic death at the 1970 Italian Grand Prix.

leonidas_ickx1_thebestwatch
Photo Credit Ebay user TheBestWatch

However, despite strong early season performances including a victory at the Dutch GP at Zandvoort, his Ferrari 312B2 proved shockingly unreliable, with engine failures at four out of the next five Grands Prix. Meanwhile, a dominant Jackie Stewart took the Tyrell team to an incredible string of victories, and the 1971 World Championship. Despite the unreliability, however, Ickx’s Ferrari 312B2 from that year is widely considered one of the most beautiful Grand Prix cars ever built.

Which, ironically enough, is a pretty fitting metaphor for the watch itself. The Easy-Rider is a bold piece, instantly identifiable as a product of its time, and yet it wears its 70s heritage well. Its oblong case comes off funky and adventurous rather than dated, and the striped dial is a classic sporty touch. It’s a hard piece to pull off as a daily wear, and at 44mm wide and 41mm lug-to-lug it definitely takes up a lot of real estate on the wrist for something of this vintage, but overall it would work in casual settings without looking like a piece of costume jewelry. However, behind the retro good looks lies a heart of glass.

leonidas_ickx3_thebestwatch
Photo Credit Ebay user TheBestWatch
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That heart, the manually wound Ebauches Bettlach EB8420 movement, actually has more in common with kitchen egg timers than your typical chronographs. This is due to its pin-lever escapement system, as opposed to the lever escapement found in most other mechanical chronographs. It’s a cheap and effective system, but it’s not one that’s made to last. Customers generally got a few years of usability out of the watches before major servicing was required, and many watchmakers refused to work on them due to a combination of the unusual system, and the fact that Bettlach produced the movements so cheaply they were regarded as throwaways and therefore didn’t produce many spare parts.

As such, those looking to find one of these should be wary of the condition and service history of the watch. Servicing, while possible, is still difficult and expensive. However, there are still examples in good condition out there if you’re willing to look, and prices can vary from around $600-$1000, which is still one of the cheapest ways into a Heuer. If you are going to search for a Jacky Ickx Easy-Rider, keep a special eye out for ones with the original packaging- the Heuer-branded miniature Jacky Ickx race helmet may just be the coolest watch box ever made.

For more info on the Heuer Easy Rider, check out this article on Calibre11

Images from this post:
Hailing from Redondo Beach, California, Sean’s passion for design and all things mechanical started at birth. Having grown up at race tracks, hot rod shops and car shows, he brings old-school motoring style and a lifestyle bent to his mostly vintage watch collection. He is also the Feature Editor and Videographer for Speed Revolutions.
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